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The Rays need to stop complaining

On Sunday, as the Yankees and Rays finished a three-game set in the Trop, Tampa manager Kevin Cash again complained about Tampa hitters being plunked by Yankees pitchers.

With the seemingly never-ending feud continuing into 2021, let’s take a look back on how this situation started.

2018 – CC Sabathia, Austin Romine and Andrew Kittredge

On Sept. 27, 2018, the Yankees and Rays were battling in their final matchup of the regular season. On that day, the situation started when CC Sabathia hit Rays’ first baseman, Jake Bauers, on the hand in the 5th inning. The play seemed innocent enough and Bauers made his way to first. However, trouble was brewing beneath the surface. The prior day, Masahiro Tanaka broke Rays’ outfielder Kevin Kiermaier’s foot with a 2-2 breaking ball in the first inning of a 3-2 game. The Rays would seek revenge that day with Vidal Nuno intentionally hitting Neil Walker in the 5th.

Upset with losing Kiermaier and seeing Bauers’ HBP, Tampa righty, Andrew Kittredge decided to send another message. With Austin Romine batting, Kittredge threw a mid-90s fastball over the head of the Yankees catcher. Sabathia would retaliate by hitting Rays’ catcher Jesus Sucre and getting ejected. Since that day, the two teams have formed a bitter rivalry.

CC and Kittredge would both be suspended for their actions, but Kittredge’s was later rescinded.

2019 – 3 Yankees hit in the Opening Series

The two teams wouldn’t face each other until May. In the series opener, Gleyber Torres was hit. The following day both Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit were plunked. Voit’s hit by pitch immediately followed a DJ LeMahieu game tying home run. While the Rays made formal statements after the game, CC and the Yankees voiced their displeasure. For the rest of the season, the two sides for the most part behaved and it looked like all of this was behind us.

2020 – Wendle, Chapman and Brosseau

During the course of the 2020 season, the Yankees took issue with the Rays frequently pitching inside. Particularly, LeMahieu was a target of multiple pitches that sent him ducking to the dirt. Annoyed, the Yankees retaliated. On Sept. 2, Tanaka hit Joey Wendle in the first inning. Later in the 9th, Aroldis Chapman threw a 101-MPH fastball near the head of Mike Brosseau, leading to Kevin Cash’s ejection.

Chapman was clearly way over-the-line with his actions. The Yankees had already retaliated and Chapman was dangerously close to causing a serious injury to Brosseau. MLB stepped in and issued a three-game suspension to the Yankees closer which was later appealed to two games, which was arguably not enough.

But Kevin Cash’s comments after the game threw more gasoline onto the fire. Cash started with “the [unwritten] code is outdated and dangerous.” Not a bad start. Simply expressing his more than valid frustrations.

But then he followed it up with this nonsense:

“It’s poor judgement, poor coaching, it’s just poor teaching what they’re doing and what they’re allowing to do. The chirping from the dugout. Somebody needs to tell me, go pull up the numbers, who has hit who more, but I can assure you that other than three years ago, there hasn’t been one pitch thrown with intent from any of our guys. Period. Somebody has to be held accountable. And the last thing I’ll say on it, is that I have a whole damn stable full of guys that throw 98 mph. Period.”

How do you go from saying the “code” is dangerous to saying we have a “damn stable full of guys that throw 98?” Either the code is dangerous or you are going to take part in it. Next, it is pretty clear that the Rays were throwing at the Yankees with intent. This whole thing started when Andrew Kittredge threw a fastball at the head of Austin Romine. And while pitches can sometimes slip, Kittredge proceeded to strikeout Romine in the at-bat showing he wasn’t struggling with his location.

Finally, let’s take a look at who has been hit by more pitches since the September 2018 series. If I had to speculate, more Rays batters have been hit but I’m guessing it will end up being pretty close.

September 2018 HBPs

Four Rays batters were hit and three Yankees were hit with Romine almost being hit.

2019 Season HBPs

Both teams had five players hit. Total: nine Rays and eight Yankees have been hit by pitches.

2020 Season HBPs

Yankees pitchers hit eight Rays while four Yankees hitters were hit by pitches. Total: 17 Rays and 12 Yankees have been hit.

2021 Season HBPs…so far

The Rays have had four batters hit while the Yankees have had two. Both teams hit two batters in in yesterday’s finale. Total: 21 Rays and 14 Yankees have been hit.

Honestly these numbers are a bit farther apart than I realized and I do understand Cash being upset. But watching the game yesterday I really didn’t feel like any batters were intentionally hit by either team.

It also felt a bit of a reach to say that the situation was “grossly mishandeld by MLB.” Chapman was hit with a suspension and has been the only player from either team to have been suspended. Meanwhile, when Kittredge started the whole situation he had his suspension rescinded. Furthermore, MLB discipline isn’t simple. There needs to be precedent and involvement from the Players Association. Maybe Cash should bring up his complaints to Tony Clark?


Yes, too many players on the Rays are being hit by Yankees pitchers. Particualry, it seems like Joey Wendle has the worst luck on anyone as he is frequently the one being hit.

With that said, it’s time to move on from complaining to the media. But Kevin Cash keeps finding new and annoying ways to keep this “controversy” in the news cycle. Instead, Cash should reach out to Aaron Boone directly with his concerns instead of talking behind a microphone. Meanwhile, the Yankees also need to move on and both sides should focus on winning games. The two teams are set to play later this week and both sides would be wise to leave this “drama” in the rearview mirror.